Polo, BuckHaven Style

The founder of the Union Hill Polo Club had never been on a horse when he began playing polo. Dr. Eric Steenlage grew up on a farm in Wisconsin where his family raised Black Angus cattle, but he had no experience around horses. After graduating college and med school, he moved to Atlanta and attended his first polo match at an Ivy League alumni social event. The sport interested him immediately.

Steenlage, an orthopedic surgeon in Buckhead, founded Union Hill Polo Club in 2010. For its size, Atlanta has relatively few polo clubs: five in total. There wasn’t a club that combined both the faster games and the fun social environment that is associated with polo. Steenlage, who had since become an avid polo player and enjoyed watching the sport, created the club to fill the gap in Atlanta’s polo scene.

“The speed, physicality and adrenaline rush that are all a part of polo appealed to me,” says Steenlage. “I tend to go a little above and beyond with most things I get into, and polo proved no exception. As I started playing more and became better, I started exploring the possibility of starting a new club.”

After a long search through the rolling hills of Metro Atlanta, Steenlage found and purchased 26 acres of land in Canton. Despite a few setbacks and lessons in irrigation, fertilization, aeration, weed control and mowing, Steenlage, his brother Keith, and his sister Ella built the Union Hill Polo Club.

Since its beginnings, Union Hill Polo Club’s team has evolved to 15 active members. The spring and summer season has games on Sundays at 2 p.m. Visitors are invited to spectate, pack a picnic and tailgate before the game. With free admission, polo could become the new weekend afternoon tradition.

At Union Hill Polo Club, crowds are a diverse mix of families, couples, polo fans and newbies to the sport. The parking lot turns into a tailgating party, where spectators pull out all the stops, including grills smoking with burgers and chicken, spreads of appetizers, and coolers of beer and wine.

“We challenge that we’re more fun than any other tailgate in the city,” says Jenny Kepano, marketing and events coordinator for the club.

The sport of polo has been called a hybrid of the rigor of hockey, the precision of golf, and the speed of horse racing. In reality, polo is an intense sport marked with speed, agility and athletic prowess from both man and horse. The action on the field is exciting to watch and rivals any other spectator sport.

Polo first came to the United States in 1876 from England, where Persian noblemen and British aristocrats first played the sport. Polo is played on horseback with a long-handled mallet and a wooden ball. Two teams of four players compete during two hours in chukkers, six timed periods. The field itself is the largest of any organized sport, at 300 yards long and 160 yards wide.

Union Hill Polo Club encourages anyone with an interest to learn the game. All levels are welcome, even if you’ve never played polo or ridden a horse. Private and group lessons are available and range from 30 minutes to a full day.

Beyond the matches, Union Hill Polo Club rents out their facilities for corporate events, parties and bocce ball games, perfect for an outdoor event. And of course, any event rental includes a polo game.

Union Hill Polo Club, 430 Roper Road, Canton, GA 30115